I love Spain. In fact, I have had the good fortune to have visited five times in five years. In the heart of Spain’s most well known wine region, Rioja, Bodegas Classica brings you Hacienda Lopez de Haro, a Vintae project. Focusing on revolutionizing the world of wine while still focusing on the small family feel, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Vintae on my first visit to Rioja in 2011. With Lopez De Haro, the region of the Rioja Sonsierra is the focus. Located within Rioja Alta, it is nestled at the foot of the Toloño Mountains. This moderate climate is perfect for making Rioja wine. From a youthful red blend, to the age worthy La Reserva, these wines are a great example of how Rioja can be affordable but luxurious at the same time. 2015 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Tempranillo – made from fruit from 50-70 year old vines, this weeknight treat is earthy with dried cherries, tobacco and herbal notes. Simple but not boring, there is a kiss of oak to finish this is a delicious $8 wine for your pizza or hamburger. 2013 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Crianza – the youngest of the classified Rioja wines, this luscius blend of Tempranillo, Garnaca and Graciano is a mouthwatering treat. Soft and pleasing to the palate but firm in structure, dried orange peel, mulling spices and fresh strawberries jump out while Herbs de Provence and cracked pepper layer of subtle vanilla. At $12, this is a steal. 2009 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva – surprisingly elegant at this price point, this wine is full of chocolate and chili spice, with lush dark fruit and balsamic notes. The finish is is full of smoked meat, and it just gets better with time. At $13, the selection of low yield Tempranillo and Graciano is elegant and silky. With 20 months in oak, this wine will just get better and at this price point is an excellent introduction to the higher escalations of Rioja. With wines of this quality for less than $20, make sure some Lopez de Haro is on your Thanksgiving table, or wherever you are celebrating this season! I can’t wait to go back to Spain to visit this special place. Special thanks to Rebekah Polster of 401 West Communications for introducing me to these excellent wines will killer QPR. Yet again, Spain is proving that wines of exceptional quality do not have to be exceptionally expensive.
Meandering through the country side of Rioja, Bodegas (wine cellars) are dotted along the back roads like farmhouses in Iowa. Bodegas Bilbaninas is in the heart of Rioja, in the Haro district of Rioja Alta. With 250 hectares (615 acres more or less ) of vineyards, they have been known for excellent wines since 1859. Never content to sit back and let change pass them by, Bilbanianas recently added the modern and upstart Vina Zaco to it’s line up. Currently owned by a French company, the family of brands also produces cognac and champagne.Bodegas Bilbainas has the oldest bottling registration in Rioja, which is unique among such an old wine tradition. As we toured the winery, we were greeted by a visual history of the bodega, which is a living piece of history. When wine first became the economic center of the region, as today, there were many attempts to counterfeit true Rioja. To combat this, Bodegas Bilbaninas and others, began the process of adding the net over the bottle that we can still see today (though now it’s decorative in nature). Why you might ask? As our host explained to us, if you put a net over the bottle after the label is affixed, you can’t slap another label on top. Genius I say! As the largest vineyard owner in the Haro area, Bodegas Bilbaninas believes in the importance of the estate vineyard. With 250 hectares of contiguous land, this is unusual and unique in Rioja and sets them apart from the competition. Having experienced the smaller bodegas and the larger bodegas, Bodegas Bilbaninas runs regular tours and tastings to educate the enotourist on the special aspects of Rioja Alta. Make sure you taste the young, fresh and fun Vina Zaco. Make of 100% Tempranillo, the Vina Zaco is a fruitier expression of Rioja that is indicative of the newer wine movement in the region. For a more traditional approach to winemaking, Bodegas Bilbaninas also produces Vina Pomal, and La Vicalanda wines. Be sure to include Bodegas Bilbaninas on your trip through the region! You won’t be sorry. Google
On a bright early summer day, as our jet lagged bodies were drug out of bed to meet Rioja sun, we were off on our first visit of the trip, to Bodegas Castillo de Sajazarra. This beautiful castle was purchased in the 1960s and restored by the Libano family as their family home. Investigating the property, they realized that there were remnants of wine productoin facilities, and they set out on an adventure to impart their own stamp on a new, modern winery. The 700 year old original fortress was situated on the border of the Moorish Muslim territory and the northern European Christians, which – as you can imagine could be quite a contested region during the crusades. Enter the current owner and his family, who are Basque. Again, a hotly disputed territory, they moved to the now tranquil region of Rioja Alta to escape persecution from the separatist movement in Basque country. After restoring the wine making facilities to modern standards, the first vintage was produced in 1973 from the the rich chalky soils of the region. Here, the bold wines of Rioja are front and center, along with the lesser known, delicate and delicious whites. Today, 250,000 bottles are produced, and aged an average of 3 to 4 years. While the castle isn’t open to the public, I highly suggest making the time and arrangements to view this piece of history in Rioja! You wont be sorry, and you might get lost in the dungeon! Google